William Shackleton talks about TESTAMENT at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: William Shackleton
Name of Edinburgh show: Testament
Venue: ZOO Charteris
Performance time: 16:45
Show length: 55mins
Ticket price: Full Price £10, 2 for 1 for friends, Concession £8

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I have been performing in some capacity pretty consistently since about the age of 4 when my Mother signed me up for my local theatre group after she realised that my unrelenting singing and playing make believe around the house could be harnessed into something more communicative, sociable and character building. Upon joining, I quickly developed my passion for acting and singing into something that became pretty obsessive. Throughout my childhood I spent countless evening and weekends being ferried around by my dutiful parents to various areas all over the north-west of England to rehearse various projects, mainly musicals. As I grew into my teens I was incredibly fortunate that my parents began to take me to see plays at theatres such as Theatre Clywd, Liverpool Everyman and the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and my attention was slowly drawn more towards straight plays, particularly psychological realism. Experiences like these opened up a whole world of intrigue for me and so at the age of 15 I got into NYT and I began acting classes for teenagers at Theatre Clywd. It was there that I was first introduced to performing in straight plays of various kinds, and so drama school seemed to be the obvious next progression. I have just graduated from the BA Acting Course at East 15 Acting School having spent three inspiring, enlightening and challenging years there. I am very excited to see what the future and, most immediately, what this fringe has in store.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Testament is about a young man called Max and the way he deals with the loss of his girlfriend, Tess, after a car accident. It’s a visually mouth-watering piece of absurdist theatre, flicking between reality and fantasy, delusion and lucidity, underscored by an epic soundtrack that takes you on a journey through Max’s mind and his remembrance of the past. Testament is about what we do for the people we love most and how we let them go.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
We had the first read of Testament in late March and after various script developments we began working regularly in June.

Testament is about how we deal with loss and how we deal with grief. It’s about our changing relationship with religion; it questions who the religious figures we know so well really are in a 2018 context and what their significance is. It’s about masculinity. It’s about what it is to be a man in the 21st century and how, as men, we operate in loving those closest to us.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Wrap up warm. Make sure you remember to eat lots because you’re on your feet a lot of the day (and the food from the stalls in Grassmarket is laaaavely). It may be August but the weather in Edinburgh is even more unpredictable than the rest of the UK so take a variety of attire for rain and sun. And remember to take the advice of strangers about what shows to see! Infinitely more useful than flicking through a programme the size of the yellow pages for two hours.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
When I was about 6, I was in the choir in a production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. It was fairly common that the actors on stage would often make faces at the children in the choir whenever they turned away from the audience. On one particular night, the man playing Joseph turned to the choir and winked at me in the middle of a song – obviously thinking that I would do nothing but continue singing. Instead, I reciprocated with an enormous wink that involved an almost cartoonish over exertion of my face that the whole audience could see as clear as day. It wasn’t particularly embarrassing at the time because I was totally oblivious to my error but I’d imagine I won’t find myself ‘breaking character’ in such a blatant way ever again.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
A specific moment that felt like a real landmark in my life and was very inspiring was seeing Jonathan Pryce play Davies in The Caretaker by Pinter at the Everyman. There was something incredibly satisfying and gripping about its intensity and the fact that, at the time, it went slightly over my head. It challenged me in a way I didn’t know theatre could. I had never experienced such threat on stage before. I had never found characters to be so multifaceted and unpredictable, and never been so confused as to who I should trust as the audience member. I am inspired by moments as much as I am by people and have been utterly spellbound by many actors, directors and writers, some well-known and some not, in moments littered throughout my life.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I like to do a bit of yoga before I perform to ‘get in my body’ and try to get myself into a centred, mindful state before going on stage – but generally the way I do that depends on the unique tone of the day. If I want to talk and have a bit of laugh I’ll do that – if not I’ll just be a diva with my headphones in in the corner.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I’m a big fan of clowning and the fringe is a hot bed of talent for it so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of that. I’m also looking forward to seeing the other East 15 shows going up this year such as the psychedelic ‘The Dip’, the suited and booted ‘Dreamland’, the feminist horror musical ‘30 Days of Blood’ and the punk-rock ‘Half Moon Shania’. Also looking forward to the return of Willis and Vere with ‘A Serious Play about WW2’ and ‘Love Songs’ by our friends Trip Hazards.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
People should see Testament because it isn’t like anything they will have seen before. It deals with the tiny, intricate inner workings of a broken mind on an expansive, universal scale. It’s funny. It’s heart-breaking. It’s heart-warming. It’s epic. It’s intimate. It’s human.

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